The Queen, Wrong Way and Me

Stop the Presses column by Chris Graham

OK, so I went to Richmond yesterday to be able to report on the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the great Commonwealth – which put me in a not-exactly-exclusive class, all things considered.

I say that because we were informed at the event that there were more than 700 credentialed members of the media on hand to record the events for posterity – meaning that there wasn’t going to be much if anything left unsaid or unreported from the visit.

And so it is that I now try to justify having spent the day standing in the rain waiting to get a glimpse of the Queen as she promenaded by – did I mention that there were only a limited number of spots available to the media to tag along with her as she visited the governor’s mansion, the General Assembly and her various and sundry other stops?

I didn’t? Then I probably didn’t mention that little ol’ Chris Graham from the little ol’ New Dominion didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting on those prime spots.

Oh, well …

I did get a scenic tour of the city of Richmond and the surrounding countryside courtesy GRTC – the bus service that hired a driver to take me and 25 or so other people from a shuttle stop at the University of Richmond football stadium about a mile and half to the Capitol for the ceremonies surrounding the Queen’s visit. Except that the driver didn’t know his way from the stadium to downtown – and took us on an hour-long jaunt that I swear had us halfway to North Carolina before he finally conceded that he had no idea where he was going.

“When I saw trees and then forests, I knew we were in trouble,” I said at one point on our way back to civilization.

To which a nice older lady sitting in front of me replied, “When we crossed the James a half-hour ago, that’s when I knew.”

The U-turn in the middle of a three-lane highway got me wondering about the driver’s mental stability – as did his insistence on taking exits off 195 and then returning to the main drag without any apparent rhyme or reason.

It wasn’t all bad, though – one couple shared the blueberry muffins that they had brought along in their picnic basket with their fellow riders, and we all agreed to form an alumni club and get together at Thanksgiving and Christmas so that we could keep up with each other and how everybody is doing.

Ahem.

Once we got to the Capitol, the rest of the day was anticlimactic. I mean, they put on a nice show for us – I’m guessing at we, the people’s, expense, with performances by music groups from across the Commonwealth, including bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, keeping us occupied until the Queen’s plane touched down in Richmond and she was able to make her way toward Capitol Square.

And they had in place two giant-screen TVs so that we could get close-in camera shots of Her Majesty as she greeted Gov. Tim Kaine and then a select group of commoners along the walk from the Executive Mansion to the Capitol.

That was a good thing – that they had those TV monitors there for us, that is.

“I can see her hat,” I remember saying at one point, and then feeling excited, for some reason – I mean, it was just a hat, after all.

Those of us not fortunate enough to have been invited to see her up close and personal and thus had to stand on a steep, grassy hill 50 to 75 feet away in a driving rain did get a glimpse or two of the Queen as she made her way inside the Capitol – but that was it.

I’m not complaining – having covered presidential visits to Virginia before, that was more than I expected, honestly.

It was enough for me to be a part of history – and given that the Queen comes to Virginia only every 50 years or so, this was history.

The day would have ended better for me had I not recognized the person in the driver’s seat on the shuttle bus that was to take me back to my car.

Yep – Wrong Way Riegels.

Oh, well …



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